What Does a Fully Virtual Impactathon Look Like? A Behind-the-Scenes Look
Impactathon for Future Flourishing was organized as an interactive 24-hour hackathon experience to innovate inclusive solutions to global poverty amid covid-19 and rising awareness of the importance of building more inclusive systems. It took place on Aug 21-22, 2020. Participants joined as teams or individually to build social impact solutions. Cash prizes for top teams included $2000+, as well as non-monetary prizes. It marked the first fully virtual Impactathon.
Over 200 people from 15 countries connected, learned, discussed, collaborated, co-created and pitched social enterprise-inspired ideas to poverty alleviation at Impactathon® for Future Flourishing. This event marks the 16th Impactathon and first fully virtual version.
An Impactathon rooted in UN SDG 1: ending poverty
Rooted in UN #SDG 1 (ending all forms of poverty everywhere by 2030), participants focused on mapping and seeking solutions to instances of extreme global poverty (in emerging economies) or ways to support safety nets to end poverty in developed economies.
Forty-seven Impact Catalysts from diverse backgrounds and geographies joined to advise, share subject matter expertise, support, judge, connect, and engage both with each other and with the participants.
After an intense twenty-four hours across more than five time zones, 22 teams pitched to judges. It was hands-down the most logistically complex Impactathon I have co-convened.
But, it was truly incredible.
Using tech platforms to facilitate connection and collaboration
Via Zoom, Discord, Eventbrite, Google Drive, WhatsApp, Youtube, and other platforms — and with the dedication and perseverance of all involved to overcome tech challenges– we were able to do more than join a videoconference for this virtual Impactathon. We were able to collaborate, to gain a feel of what it is like to be in a room together. A room without borders, without physical location, without a singular sense of time.
When we let go of what that interaction ‘should’ be, and thanks to the incredible leadership of the organizing team, we were able to lean in to what it could be.
When we allowed space for co-creation, much of which happened after Impactathoners were ‘in the room’, we could adapt and create spaces, resources, and feedback loops to support the dynamic needs.
We did this amid fire threats and evacuations in the SF Bay area, power outages in Africa, and every range of wifi connectivity issues you might dare to imagine. But thanks to the steadfastness and adaptability, dedication, and true grit of everyone involved—these interactions happened instead of hoping to have happened.
The ‘competition’ for a virtual event? Doing nothing.
These days the biggest ‘competition’ for a virtual event, is no event at all. We each have the option of simply not logging on to a webinar, an online meetup, another Zoom call.
So to have this dynamic group of critical thinkers and impact-driven problemsolvers say an emphatic yes through presence and engagement—is a sign of something important. Despite challenging news headlines, a sense of lack of agency due to pandemic and systemic inequities…when given the chance, people want to co-create solutions. People want to be part of change.
This is the belief that powers and empowers my work through Innov8social. Creating tools, resources, programs to make social entrepreneurship more accessible and actionable. TLDR; to give agency back to people to create meaningful change.
Naming our impact ecosystem
There are too many people and organizations to thank and recognize. But, impact ecosystem-building is all about including, connecting, seeing, hearing, acknowledging— so I will try to do so here (and keep updating :)
Co-creating Impactathon with a dedicated collaborator and client
The idea, motivation, and heart of this event came from Adam Cole, founder of Join the Journey. His network of military, faith-based changemakers, and microfinance community in Haiti, Zambia, and beyond and his ability to personally connect, invite and involve so many diverse voices empowered this Impactathon.
Thank you to the participants.
This event and experience was designed for you. We hope you felt that. We hope you know that. The content, the platforms, the Impact Catalysts, the talks and panel discussions were created and organized to put tools in your tool belt as impact problemsolvers.
I heard from many that the pitches were hard. How do you put so much information into 4 minutes? There is no one way as you experienced. However, you should feel proud of yourselves that you attempted it. You did the hard thing of trying to map social impact issues, work on inclusive solutions, and share your work. It’s a step in your greater journey— one that you met with courage.
Recognizing the ‘go-team’ working seamlessly behind the scenes
For all of the work Impactathoners saw, there is a depth of work they may not have even realized was happening behind-the-scenes. Deep gratitude to each of you.
Adam Cole, Leon Wang, Jenna Carlton, Grace Wangari, Rebekah DeButts, Ioana Ghimus, Peter Ngugi, Arianna Camargo.
Thank you to our many Impact Catalysts, and those who took on the role organically.
We heard from so many Impactathon participants about the wonderful engagement, conversations, and insight they gained through conversations with and by you.
Jacob Adams, Ezenwayi Amaechi, PhD, Spencer Arnold, Heather Arora, Anita Balaraman, Marc Alain Boucicault, Dr. David Babbs, Brendan Barbato, Chuck Brown, Nick Brown, Sam C. Burke,Theresa L Carpenter, Adam Cole, Sylvia Doss, Gloria Ferrer,Miloni Gandhi, Nathaniel Gilman, Michael Gordon, Flossie Hall, Andrew Hening, Prasad Jaladi, Cate Johnson,Mary Patrick Kavanaugh, Michelle Kurian, Ramon Llamas, MPH, Mark Lovett, Silvia Mah PhD, MBA, Mwihaki Muraguri, KP Naidu, Pamela O’Brien, Adeniyi Oluokun, Mark Papia, Neetal Parekh, Leena Patel, MD, MPH, Jean-Louis Robadey, Larry Simpson, Rukayatu Tijani, Brian Walker, Leon Wang, Gillian Foster Wilkinson
Thank you to our Impact Talk Speakers.
Your talks helped create a common experience and invited innovation, collaboration, and authenticity through your own example of the same.
Julie-Anne Savarit-Cosenza, Mike Sehzue, and Daniel Jean-Louis.
Thank you to our judges.
Giving thoughtful feedback on social impact pitches requires focus and patience, in any setting. Our judges, however, were tested by technology challenges and a roster of 20+ teams that required their active attention and feedback for five hours.The thoughtfulness and candor of the feedback will no doubt continue to transform and shape the work of Impactathoners beyond this event.
Radha Basu, Will Harris, Grace Rodriguez, Eric Van Trump, and Mark Papia.
Thank you to our sponsors.
If you have followed my reflections on impact ecosystem-building, you may know that an observation shared by many ecosystem builders is the inherent challenge in finding who in the system will value our work and empower it to continue and grow. In this case, a host of sponsors stood alongside Join the Journey to invest monetarily, in-kind, and through thought leadership to ensure that this event could be delivered; and that we would not turn any potential participant away for lack of funds.
Global SouthXSouth Consulting, International Strategic Management, Perfecto Coffee, #HumanIntelligence, Banj, Impact Hub Houston, Fokcus Mentoring, Cedel Haiti, Willpower Warriors, Africa Education Program, iMerit Technology, and Adastra Ventures.
Would you like to co-create the next hybrid or fully virtual Impactathon?
There is momentum and learning that has happened. I always think the end of an Impactathon is the perfect moment to start the next one because we are at a pinnacle of knowledge and awareness. If you are interested in co-creating an Impactathon® for your company, community, university, or group, please be in touch. You can schedule a time to chat here.